When I came back from vacation five weeks ago, I started a six week series that I entitled, ONE. Knowing we were going to be doing away with the "traditional/contemporary" split in worship in favor of a blended format (you can read about it here and here-please do!), I thought it would be wise to spend six weeks preaching on the various dynamics of unity-providing a Biblical, theological rationale for what oneness is and why it's so important to God.
The final sermon in this series is entitled ONE: One Mission. My goal will be to unpack the one mission of God and then highlight our privileged role in God's mission. As I was thinking about the mission of God, I went back to Matthew 24:37-41.
Matthew 24:37‑41 is a key passage some Christians use to justify an escapist theology, approaching this world with a "Why shine the brass on a sinking ship?" attitude. In this passage Jesus likens "the coming of the Son of Man" to the time of Noah, when people "were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away." Then Jesus gives two brief pictures of the effect of his coming: "Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left."
These verses have been employed to support the idea that God will one day evacuate, or "rapture," all the righteous people, leaving behind an evil world destined for annihilation. Therefore, the thinking goes, Christians should focus exclusively on seeking to rescue lost souls rather than waste time trying to fix things that are broken in this doomed world. This perspective is evidenced in a comment I read not long ago from a well-known Bible teacher: "Evangelism is the only reason God's people are still on earth."
But a closer look at the context reveals that in those pictures Jesus gave of men in the field and women at the mill, those "left behind" are the righteous rather than the unrighteous. Like the people in Noah's day who were "swept away," leaving behind Noah and his family to rebuild the world, so the unrighteous are "taken," while the righteous are left behind. Why? Because this world belongs to God, and he's in the process of gaining it all back, not giving it all up.
When it comes to this world's future, God will follow the same pattern he engineered in Noah's day, when he washed away everything that was perverse and wicked but did not obliterate everything. God will not annihilate the cosmos; he'll renew, redeem, and resurrect it. As Randy Alcorn writes, "We will be the same people made new and we will live on the same Earth made new."
Moreover, the comparison between the floodwaters in Noah's day and the fire that Peter wrote about is significant. The wicked things that are "swept away" by water can grow back (as happened in Noah's time). But the wicked things burned up by fire can never come back. The burning-away effect of fire is permanent; the sweeping-away effect of water isn't. Fire, in this case, is better than flood.
One thing all of this means is that God intends to bring redemption into every arena where sin has brought corruption—and that's everywhere! As the beloved Christmas hymn "Joy to the World" puts it:
He comes to make his blessings flow, Far as the curse is found.
In these remarkable lines we broadcast in song a gospel as large as the universe itself. The blessings of redemption "flow as far as the curse is found." This hymn reminds us that the gospel is good news to a world that has, in every imaginable way, been twisted away from the intention of the Creator's design by the powers of sin and death, but that God, in Christ, is putting it back into shape.
Because God created peoples, places, and things, and because sin has corrupted peoples, places, and things, God intends to redeem peoples, places, and things. In Christ, God intends to redeem not only individuals but also neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. He intends to redeem not only environmentalists but also the environment; not just lawyers but also law; not simply government officials but also government itself (Isaiah 9:6‑7). His goal is to transform every cultural sphere, from art and education to commerce and communication—everything! His mission is to redeem, renew, and regenerate all that is twisted and corrupt, broken and crusted over with sin.
Furthermore, this is a mission God will never abort. He refuses to quit until he has renewed every last inch of his good creation that has been contaminated by evil. "Behold, I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5). The apostle Paul says that God is using the power of Christ's cross to "reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven" (Colossians 1:20). He speaks of God's "plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth" (Ephesians 1:10).
Theologian Cornelius Plantinga notes the comprehensiveness of it all: "In a thousand ways, God will gather what's scattered, rebuild what's broken, restore what has been emptied out by centuries of waste and fraud. In a thousand ways, God will put right what's wrong with his glorious creation."
God promises nothing short of total cosmic renewal. Our confident anticipation of that renewal—our living hope of it—triggers and sustains our excitement and motivation for making a difference by living unfashionable lives.
(This material was taken from my book Unfashionable pg. 52-55)